Baptism – St. Wojciech/Adalbert – Poland. The Heritage of Medieval Gniezno


The exhibition prepared by the Museum of the Origins of the Polish State in collaboration with the Archdiocesan Archives of Gniezno and the Museum of Gniezno Archdiocese. It is to address the questions of the beginnings of Polish nation and statehood through the prism of Gniezno, a unique place.

The title indicates the key historical events which have taken place precisely in Gniezno, seen as the cradle of the community of both the people and the dynasty ruling it. The exhibition will be divided into three parts.

The first part is titled: In the Hill Fort of Gniezno. It harks back to the pre-Christian era and demonstrates the uniqueness of Gniezno as a religious cult centre. Back then it was “Holy Mount”, or Lech Mount, which was of sacred importance. Later it was here that the cathedral church was established. Archaeological research has confirmed that Lech Mount in Gniezno was a supra-regional centre of pagan worship, possibly the venue of enthroning pagan dukes. This part of the exhibition indicates moreover the significance of the capital settlement of Gniezno at the time of the first rulers of the Piast dynasty. In the 940s, Lech Mount was the venue of a powerful hill fort, at its heyday in the 1st half of the 11th century. It was composed of four separate sections and covered an area of ca. 4.5 hectares.

The second part of the exhibition is called Baptism – the Origins of the Church in Gniezno. It shows Gniezno as an alleged venue of Poland’s baptism. Written historical records do not indicate the place where Prince Mieszko I and his court adopted Christianity. Nor do we know where mass baptisms took place in Wielkopolska. Various hypotheses are put forward; recently this place is seen to have been on the territory ruled by the Polish prince, and so technically in Wielkopolska. Actually, this shortens the lists to four hill forts: Gniezno, Poznań, Ostrów Lednicki, and Giecz. In this context Gniezno as the spiritual capital of pagan tribes, a cult centre, was especially predisposed to manifest a change of religion and the imposition of a new faith. This may have been a clear sign for all, the start of a new era. This part of the exhibition will also be dedicated to the person of St. Wojciech/Adalbert and his ties with Gniezno, the Gniezno Convention in 1000 and Gniezno as the capital of the Church in Poland.

The third part of the exhibition is called The Cathedral Church in Gniezno. In late Middle Ages, Gniezno ceased to be the capital of the Kingdom but remained the capital of the Church in Poland. The local cathedral was the place of worship of one of the major patron saints of the Kingdom of Poland, his tomb attracting numerous pilgrims from across the country and from abroad. Unique for this part of the exhibition is a 1:1 replica of St. Wojciech/Adalbert’s Chapel from the cathedral’s nave, protecting the gothic tomb of St. Wojciech/Adalbert with his relics. Gniezno Cathedral played a significant role as a coronation place of Polish monarchs; as many as five of them took place here (the last one in 1300). Gathered at the exhibition will be documents with seals of the kings crowned in Gniezno Cathedral, precious liturgical vessels and books. The Gniezno Door will take the pride of place in the exhibition.

The launch of the “Baptism – St. Wojciech/Adalbert – Poland. The Heritage of Medieval Gniezno” exhibition will take place on 11 March 2016, during the 10th Gniezno Convention. Then it will be on display in the grand hall of temporary exhibitions in the Museum of the Origins of the Polish State until 25 October 2016. The exhibition is held under the honorary auspices of the Primate of Poland Archbishop Wojciech Polak.